Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, September 26, 2008

A case for a daydreamer

Yesterday I attended a reading event. People were presented, and then went up to the podium to read their work; essays, excerpts from novels and poetry. One guy sang and played the piano.

I was there because one of my classmates was one of the people doing a reading. He read his essay, which talks about his experiences while working and studying Arabic in Morocco. I'd read just pieces of it, and was glad I had waited for the rest. The parts I already knew were even better coming from the writer himself, and I listened and enjoyed it quite thoroughly.

Of course, it's always been my luck that the thing I go somewhere specifically to see never comes soon enough. For example, at concerts, my favorite songs are not played until the very end, or close to it. I've always had to wait and sit through agonizing things to get to my goal, and though this has taught me patience and extra appreciation for what I'm waiting for, it's still agony.

Before Jeff went up and read his essay, I and everyone else had to sit through three presentations. The first was quite pleasant, short and sweet-- a bluesy/jazzy song on the piano that was really cute. Following that was a nice and long essay that began with visions of cats and other creatures popping out of the pattern of a Persian rug, then branched out into musings over extinct smells and sounds from history we've only read about. You see, I was listening, but felt boredom slightly tugging at my brain.

Tugging turned into consuming when the next reader went up to the podium. She read the prologue from her soon to be published science fiction/fantasy novel for young adults. Not only was the subject matter not interesting to me, but it's built for a completely different audience. I kept looking at the stack of papers in that reader's hands, waiting for it to dwindle down to just one sheet. It seemed like eternity, but her hands were finally empty, because as she finished with one sheet, she would place it on the podium. Everyone applauded at the end. But wait! She also had an excerpt from another science fiction/fantasy book she is publishing.

The stack wasn't as big as the first, but it was still agony to get through. I prayed for the reason I was there to be next, so I could go about my day and keep boredom from putting me in complete hibernation mode.

My prayers were answered, because Jeff was next, and just in time. His reading was great and an absolute joy, pulling me right out of misery.

There are things I just don't feel or plain don't like.

Poetry is one. I know that songs are poetry set to music, and I agree, so, I guess I like poetry when combined with music.

I also don't feel, nor like nonlinear storytelling. Seriously, if I wanted to give myself a headache and get confused I would just listen to myself.

Readings are now part of this list.

Don't get me wrong, I really did enjoy Jeff's essay, and if another friend was doing the same thing, I'd still go and watch them during their big moment where they get to shine.

I am a daydreamer however, which makes me someone very prone to having a wandering mind that is hard to hold back and keep in place without something extraordinary.

I suppose everyone is like this, but I think I'm worse off than most people. Reading has been and will always be one of my favorite things, but only when I'm the one reading. Though I still daydream while I read, I daydream about what I'm reading, which is a wonderful side-effect.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Pride (in the name of the AFP)"

What a wonderful day.

You know those days you get up in the morning, get ready and think it's gonna be an ordinary day... then as the day accelerates, you find that it is a phenomenal one?

Well, today was a day like that for me. I got up, struggled to find something to wear, threw whatever on, gathered my things and drove to school. Before I even reached school, my phone rang, and it was Kat, the assistant editor informing me that the newspapers we sent to the printers the day before had been delivered and were ready for distribution.

PHEW! Issue one is out, and I can't express the amount of weight that has been lifted off my shoulders. I wanted so bad to get that sucker out of the way and move on to the next issue. The time has come, finally.

But the coolness doesn't stop there, because plenty happened on this very special day for me, the staff, the advisor, and even the administration of ACC.

You see, it's a very long story, but basically the Arapahoe Free Press has been struggling to stay alive for a few years. ACC's administration has wanted to kill the publication for reasons I'm not clear on, and as a result, it has made running the thing efficiently near impossible. It has also made the administrators read the newspaper religiously, but never express anything positive. From what I understand, the administration read the paper to see just what was being said about them, which usually pissed them off. Hence, the plans to make the AFP disappear.

Today, I believe the AFP made history. Or perhaps changed its fate. Not only did we get kudos from the advisor who was raving about what a great first issue we had produced (then proceeded to rip it apart with red ink), but we also got kudos from two very unlikely sources.

The vice president of the college came in and congratulated us. I thought nothing of it at first, and simply thanked him, thinking he's a pretty good-looking guy for his age. Later, another member of the administration came in and congratulated us as well. I thought maybe this was normal for the first issue out of courtesy. Chris, our advisor informed us that this was in fact the first time he'd ever seen or heard of administrators congratulating the newspaper staff on their work. Chris has been with ACC 20 years, so to hear him say that made my heart skip a beat.

Am I on the brink of reviving ACC's newspaper with utmost quality, to the point where the administration will love it enough to pay it more heed? Or did we simply write things that pleased the administration?

I hope it is the former rather than the latter, because we had a couple of stories in there with the potential to upset the administration. Either way, I'm so proud of myself, and I'm proud of my team, and I'm proud of the Arapahoe Free Press.

And now, we move on to issue two...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

4 people + 14 unedited articles = production day

Today was production day. It actually should've been yesterday (Tuesday), but given the events of the last few days, I, as Editor, made the decision to move it to Wednesday. It was a good decision, but it still didn't alleviate a lot of the problems I was hoping to with that extra day.

Without a Copy Editor, editing copy is naturally a nightmare. There were four of us working last night, and all of today. I'm pretty good at spotting mistakes... I find them all the time in newspapers, books and websites. It's easy to find mistakes when you're not rushing. But when you're rushing, and it's your product you're proofreading, it's a little less easy.

Like I said, there were four of us; me, the assistant editor, the designer and Dave, the man I mentioned in a previous post, who reminds me of Peter Boyle. Between the four of us, we had an insane amount of unedited articles to take care of between yesterday and today. And when I say unedited, I mean UNEDITED. I must put the crackdown on writers not following instructions, because the hot mess we had on our hands at production time cannot be repeated and is totally unacceptable.

Now, I understand that Arapahoe Community College isn't exactly an institution with the cream of the crop as its student body, but these people aren't exactly dumb. Some of them are quite brilliant. The problem is this apathy from students and faculty alike. Even professors attest to this apathy, and that is a complete and utter shame, because it transfers to the students.

Because of this attitude, I'm having trouble getting things done. Stories are turned in late despite many warnings that missing deadlines is a ticket to getting fired. When work is turned in on time, it is either riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, or it is simply incoherent. Writers think that once their work is turned in, they're free and disappear until it's too late to get them to make corrections, or get more information. We, the editors, end up editing and sometimes rewriting entire articles because of this carelessness.

The writers are very sadly mistaken if they think they can do things half-assed and still get a byline by themselves, if at all. With issue two, there will be quite a bit of cinching and tightening.

For one thing, now that things are more official, job descriptions will be handed out. The job descriptions state plainly what is expected of each individual in the position they are filling. I hope that by letting people see what they are officially supposed to be doing, I get to insure that instructions are followed, and that stuff gets done. Moreoever, job descriptions will weed out those who are unqualified. I hate to say it, but I've got a feature section editor who doesn't know who her writers are and what stories they're working on. This isn't including the fact that she can't write features to begin with. I don't know how she became feature editor, but a feature editor, a mediocre movie reviewer does not make! Hopefully, by giving this person an official job description she will realize what the position involves and decide to either drop it (which I'm hoping for, since I have someone in mind to take the position and do well at it), or she will start being more proactive.

Then I've got writers who walk in without any experience, but are sporting gigantic, air-filled egos. I have one writer who is 25, used to be in a band, left the band after the usual "band break-up" drama, skipped a chance to sign on with a huge label (or so he says), and decided to come back to school after seeing his friends get their degrees and making something of their lives, while he was rocking on, and bar tending. Great, I thought. He really wants to be here, and really wants to learn! WRONG. The guy has an ego the size of the state of Texas, and is a major d***. I'm not alone in my opinion of this supposed rockstar. Even the advisor agreed with me. I will admit that he is our best news reporter, but I can't get over his attitude and want nothing more than to twist his ear and make him see that the very thing stopping him from becoming something more than a former rocker is his ego.

BUT I won't be twisting any ears, or giving any reality checks to him, or anyone. I am supposed to be diplomatic, gentle and encouraging, even when people don't deserve it. I simply cannot afford to lose any more writers... especially not news writers.

I've always hated it when people say things like "team work", "team player", or "proactive", but I'm finding myself at a loss for any other words at this point. The words still make me twitch, but they are very important when you're trying to make a machine work that has different parts that must function properly for success. The Arapahoe Free Press is lacking team work and team players who are proactive, and I'm growing tired of it already.

The good news is, tomorrow issue one is on stands and it has become clearer to me what needs to be done to insure a better process for issue two. In the meantime, I must improve on my leadership skills and put my foot down on slacking.

Now, I'll go do some homework.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Let the games begin

The Olympics are over, and have been for about a month, but I've got my own games just starting.

I'm officially Editor now, which also means I'm officially baby sitter. My God, the things that are surfacing are making me think I'm going into the seventh circle of hell.

To make a long, confusing story very short... my assistant editor got into a tiff with the designer who hates her, and called me this morning in tears wanting to resign, because the girl who hates her told her to resign.

Now, I've had my issues with the assistant editor, but nothing along the lines of wanting her to resign from the paper altogether!

Just in one day, I've confirmed that I can't keep writers because of the assistant editor, and that my designer is even more outspoken than I'd already thought. I've talked to both, and I hope these problems are more the exception than the rule.

This brings me to the subject of trying to keep people happy... I don't think it's possible. I was lucky with these two girls, because they are both gung-ho for the paper, and had no intention of really leaving... but I know for a fact that I'm not going to be able to put out all fires each time tempers flare. This makes my job extremely challenging, even more than it already was without the politics.

All I can do is try to make everyone happy by listening to them and addressing their concerns, and hope to God that is enough to keep them on the staff.

Friday, September 19, 2008

How about the real reason I'm at ACC?

I've been so consumed by the happenings at the newspaper, that I've neglected to write about the real reason I'm in school-- my class!

Class is going good. I haven't published anything yet, but this class has helped me in different, amazing ways.

For one thing, the project we're working on right now is a book proposal. Now, I don't have a book, but my ultimate goal is to write one one of these days. Up until now, my vision of a book has been a little hazy. I simply had no idea what I wanted to make into a book, but I knew I wanted to write one.

A series of events recently has cleared up the murky waters, and the book proposal assignment is simply a way for me to put my vision of my book in writing and on paper. For the first time I feel I can answer the question: "What do you want to write?"

So, what do I want to write? Are you ready for this? Historic fiction. I love history, and I love fiction. A number of my favorite books fall under this category. I can't think of a better combination, and it's what I want to do.

The Bronze Horsemanwas a book I read years ago that is more of a romance, but has a very strong historic fiction aspect to it. This book is one of my favorites and really got me into reading the genre. Few books were able to hold me and draw me like it did for a long time, but it certainly sent me on a path. The path was long, but it finally lead me to The Birth of Venus, the book that truly got me thinking about trying my hand at the genre. I only dreamed about it, though, and instead just felt awed by the genius who wrote it (Sarah Dunant). Further down the path, I stumbled upon Outlander, part of a series, and which actually falls under fantasy, given its time-traveling aspect. This is the book that helped the machine run by the class work properly and produce a solid goal.

I am simply hooked on this idea, and have not only decided on the genre, but I've also decided on the setting. I've thought about a rough plot, and decided on the time my story will take place in.

Simply put, through this class assignment, I was able to insure that what I plan on doing has not been done often, and virtually never. Out of all this, new stories and ideas have surfaced that I think have finally given me a niche to strive for in the genre I've chosen. A ton of research is in order, naturally, but luckily, the research is on history... I said it already and I'll say it again... I love history.

Though I usually shy away from sharing my fiction/creative writing, I am going to share an excerpt of my first attempt at historic fiction, and would love to know your thoughts!

So, here goes:

It was the year 1257, and peace broke out over our city for the holy month of Ramadan, leaving us to tend to our religious duties as Muslims. Ours was a city that was rich with books on science and literature, culture and religion. It had been that way for over 500 years in Baghdad-- the City of Peace.

The smell of jasmine permeated the air, while the Tigris and Euphrates rivers glittered underneath Allah's light and glory. Minarets poked out like decorative needles against a backdrop of the orange setting sun in the horizon.

I was born and grew up in this city that was the home and center of the Abbasid Caliphate. My father was a respected merchant of all things exotic and spicy. I was sixteen then, and living in a palace with my father, mother, brothers and sisters. A slew of servants filled our courts to tend to our every need. It was the life of an aristocratic family in these Abbassid years-- one filled with delicious meats, breads, rice, and an assortment of fruits and vegetables virtually unknown to the commoners of our rich city.

Each day, the servants would spend endless hours preparing the family's meals, becoming mesmerized by things like a long yellow fruit that is joined at the top with others like it in a tough black bond.

I was a child of five, when I saw Amina, my nanny, marvel at the beauty of a bright red apple. Thinking her wonderment funny I broke out in laughter, sending Amina running after me as I maneuvered the palace's open courts. I knew every nook and cranny of the palace with its vast courts and majestic columns. I floated and disappeared behind exotic pieces my father had brought back from his travels as a merchant. Some of them still held the smell of spice and the seas that had absorbed into the wood during transport aboard ships. I could still smell the cinnamon, curry, cumin and paprika emanating from the Chinese wooden chest. My father prized this chest more than any other object he acquired during his sails. It had a lock and an accompanying key with golden tassels hanging from it.

Amina’s duty was to tend to my every need. She was like a mother to me, though I gave her more trouble than I gave my real one, who commanded the respect of all the palace’s occupants. My mother had gone through a dozen pregnancies, several difficult births and a handful of stillborns—a mixture I had come out from, healthy and mischievous. My mother was simply too weak to care for a child of my disposition, even if it weren’t already the custom for a family of our status to have nannies for children.

Amina's thick body often left her winded when she finally did catch up to me, making me succumb to the dreaded nightly bath.

I hope I was able to conjure up vivid images of Baghdad, back when it was the center of the world. There is quite a conflict being set up for this story, and I didn't have to do much to create it. History itself created the conflict for me, all I have to do is describe it in an engaging way. I mention the year 1257. Well, 1257 is the year before the Abbasid Dynasty ended. February 10, 1258 is when Baghdad was sacked by the Mongols, who wreaked so much havoc on the city, that the Tigris was said to have turned red with blood.

It's obvious that Baghdad is a city that has seen a lot of violence in its time, and it's unfortunate, because the violence is all most people see. They never see the beauty of this city, with its rich history and culture. I will paint Baghdad as the way it was once upon a time, and show how that beauty began to fade, yet never completely went away. That beauty still exists today, but I suppose it's a little hard to see with tanks rolling through streets that have existed for centuries, and hold secrets that were once written on paper, but burned by the Mongol invasion 750 years ago.

So, this is what my class has done for me just in the last month. This class has been worth every penny!

When friendship lowers the volume

I had my meeting with the Media Board yesterday, and I am now officially Editor of the Arapahoe Free Press.

It was interesting, because before the meeting, I was feeling so anxious and scared, not of not getting the job, but of actually getting it. Oh my Gosh... Editor of an entire newspaper? That's a scary position to be in. I decide what goes in the paper, and what doesn't... I have the power to hire and fire. Everything I do and don't do affects me, the staff, the paper, and even the school. Moreover, my success depends largely on getting people to do what is asked of them.

The meeting went well, and it was with two members of the Board, one of who is my professor. The anxiety and fear faded very quickly, and I was soon feeling giddy and happy that I got such a position with the support of a phenomenal advisor and a wonderful professor. I'm still happy and proud, and looking forward to the road ahead... but there's that little nagging thing that is bothering me.

I talked about James, the original Editor, and I can't get over this strange feeling of guilt. I don't know why I feel guilty, because once James expressed interest at the first ever meeting we had, I immediately registered him in my mind as the Editor. Period. I didn't ever think of the position, and sort of got voted into being the Assistant Editor. I was happy with the arrangement, because as I said before, we simply worked great together, and it didn't take long to see what a great team we made.

When his hiring process got botched up, I made statement after statement to my new friend that I would never "usurp" his job, and that I had no intention of doing so. The words are echoing in my mind still of me saying "I would never do that to you," the night he called me freaking out about things.

I still didn't really do that to him, and let's face it, the circumstances have changed and I was sorta' kinda' pushed into it out of necessity.

But the loyal part of me just can't rest.

The last time I spoke to James was a week ago, last Friday. I was telling him about all the things going on in the office, and how much I have to do now that I've been asked to be Editor, and he was laughing with me, while helping me figure out how to deal with stuff. Up until that last conversation I had treated my stepping in as Editor as just a temporary arrangement. Our conversation got cut short, because he received a phonecall, and told me he'd call me back.

He never called back, and my emails have gone unanswered. The entire staff has tried to get a hold of him, and no response.

I know he's not calling back or emailing for a good reason that will become clearer as he figures things out with his situation (which is legal). But in the meantime, and even though I know it's the AFP that's the problem, and not me, I still wish I could explain everything myself.

I hope I get my friend back soon!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

There's definitely a shadow of a doubt

I'm having some second thoughts about my choice for Assistant Editor.

Though she does what I ask with speed and gusto, it's her conduct that is making me doubt my decision. With the exception of one writer leaving us, it's becoming clear to me that this person I've chosen for my assistant is the cause of our staff retention problem. We lost yet another writer today, who seemed just fine at yesterday's meeting, but ended up emailing me this morning to say he was quitting without reason.

I'm not officially Editor yet, which means she's not officially my assistant yet. I suppose it's not too late to change my mind, but that doesn't make it any easier on me. I've had several people come to me and express their less than good feelings toward this person, and though at first I chose to just ignore it all, and focused on what she could bring to the job, it's getting harder to ignore people's comments. This is mostly because EVERYONE has something to say about her that is less than flattering. The males and females on the staff of all ages and walks of life all either hate her, or have heard that everyone hates her.

This is problematic for me, because with such a hated individual as my right-hand person, it's going to be difficult to keep the staff happy. In the meantime, I've been sitting back and watching her conduct, and at the very least we have different management styles. She wants to "command authority" and basically rule with an iron fist everything from the work that's turned in, to making sure that staff don't breathe wrong during "newspaper time". She lacks diplomacy, BIG TIME, and has a tendency to alienate people. She's loud and talks over people. She'll ask a question, I start to answer, and before I've even answered completely, she'll start the next question. This irritates me to no end, and I imagine everyone else who deals with her.

This is not including this habit she has of taking her shoes off and putting her bare feet up on a chair while we're trying to "command authority" and be professional (I put things in quotation marks that she has actually said herself). Call me old-fashioned, but at least when a professor is speaking in front of the class, it's inappropriate to have your feet up, facing him or her. It's unprofessional, disgusting and totally poor in taste.

I hope I can deal with all of this in a professional way that leaves everyone happy.

Meanwhile, yesterday I found out that I no longer have a Copy Editor, have no ad space sold yet, and am in desperate need for writers and an ad sales rep. I went and spoke to a business class trying to recruit an ad sales rep and a business writer, expecting it to be big, but found that it was a puny class of just barely 10 people, all who didn't seem interested at all in anything I had to say.

Issue One is going to look absolutely pathetic, and I'm in deep doodoo, and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it, because it all depends on PEOPLE.

Which brings me back to my original statement that people... suck... the... life... out... of... me!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Change should not always be embraced

I don't know about any other Facebook users, but I'm hating the new layout. It's not user-friendly at all, and it gives too much information in the news feed. The home page is overwhelming, what with numerous individual tabs that lead you to things you were able to see all on one page with one click of the mouse, and a little bit of scrolling.

Now, I made use of the "send feedback" link provided, and told Facebook developers that I hated the new layout. I also mentioned that it's hard on the eyes, much like MySpace, which I find so incredibly ugly and repellant. I got a generic reply from them a day later telling me that they appreciate my writing in, but they offered no comfort that they will go back to the old Facebook.

This brings me to the subject of how things that work perfectly are ruined with useless changes, or by simply being discontinued. I've had an influx of such incidents lately, and it's really beginning to grind on me how whenever I get used to something and think it's the best there is, some new employee at the company that provides this thing decides to show how they have an innovative idea, and ruin things for the rest of us.

Aveda did this to me by discontinuing the leave-in conditioner I have been using for two years. I mean, I had the bottle for two years... that's how good this stuff is. When I ran out, I went to their little store in the mall, and what do I find? That they discontinued this perfect product and replaced it with a bottle half its size, double its price, and does things I'm not too concerned with doing to my hair!

I walked out of there steaming mad, because apparently, the product I loved so much had been discontinued for over a year. Now I'm stuck trying to find a leave-in conditioner that is as affordable as that of Aveda's Elixir, and does the same job. This is one difficult task and I've been using Sunsilk's leave-in conditioner in the meantime, while I hunt for something better. Thanks stupid Aveda person with a stupid vision.

Things like this leave me feeling paranoid that my favorite products--especially beauty and hygiene products-- are going to disappear off shelves. Just yesterday I was at Walmart and made sure for the upteenth time recently that the spray I use to protect my hair from heat styling is still being manufactured and still has a spot on the shelf. I was happy to see that it is still there, and when I run out soon, I will be able to just go to Walmart and grab it in passing.

Why fix it, if it's not broken? That's a question I'd like to ask Facebook, Aveda and any other company that lets some idiot present and implement supposedly innovative ideas. Your products are just fine the way they are... stop messing with them!!! Innovation should improve products and their value to the consumer, and both Facebook and Aveda missed the mark on that aspect.

A bit of advice: Don't embrace every change that comes your way!

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I finally saw Juno.

Obviously, I've heard what everyone has heard about it... how it's good, and refreshing, and a runaway hit. But I've also heard some negative things about it, like how it tries too hard to be cool and deep. It won an Oscar, so there must be some truth to the kudos, I thought. But the Oscars have often commended movies that are nothing special.

After hearing these differing views, I popped the DVD in, and started watching.

What I saw was a good movie. Not great, or innovative, but good. I saw that it did try too hard at times to be cool and deep, but not to the point where it ruins the humor or seriousness of it. I saw that it was deeper than a kiddie pool, but only as deep as your neighborhood adult pool gets. Oscar material? Not really, but again... the Oscars commend movies that are nothing special all the time.

Verdict: I liked it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

People suck... the life out of me!!!

It is now day 12 of Ramadan, and I think the effects of it are beginning to catch up with me. I'm simply too exhausted to construct coherent sentences when I don't have to, hence, my absence from my blog.

Some major changes have taken place just in the last four days. I should be excited to be announcing this, and though there is a part of me that is ecstatic, there is a part of me that is sad, given the circumstances that this came to be under.

I am now runner-up for Editor-in-Chief of the Arapahoe Free Press newspaper!

I'm excited and looking forward to this new and extremely valuable opportunity, should I be formally selected (I will find out by next Thursday, I believe). BUT the Editor, who has become a sort of friend, is now out of the picture, making me feel a little crummy, since he was really wanting this position. It's especially unfortunate, because James, the previous Editor, is basically being screwed by what we all believe is some shady business in the hiring process. He is working on returning to the paper, but not necessarily to an Editor capacity, given what he must do in order to come back.

I'm also sad, because James and I worked really well together. We were always on the same page with AFP-related things, as well as non-AFP-related things. We became friends quick and I think it's a friendship that will continue outside of the newspaper. We had great chemistry as professional partners. I'm very upset by his absence, and am crossing my fingers for his return as anything, because he actually knows what he's doing!

In the meantime, I've had to take on big responsibilities I liked not having as Assistant Editor. I've picked an Assistant Editor for myself, and I believe and hope that she is the right choice. If she's not, I have no idea who else to go with, because nobody else fits the bill for the kind of dedication I want in someone I will rely heavily on. We'll see if my judgement is on target. If not, I can always call Palin up. (Hah!)

It's exhausting to think of all the things I must do to get this paper up and ready to go to print. We've already pushed the deadline out a week, and it still looks like something hard to achieve.

I'm sorry to say that people are the main problem. Though I understand that school and classes are the main reason why each one of us is there, I still think that extracurricular activities should be given time and effort. After all, we're not asking people to pick up trash for free, so I don't understand why they are acting like we're twisting their arms into writing for us, and being such pains to deal with. They get experience, their names in print AND they get paid. What are we doing wrong? Misjudging the people who come through our door? As far as I could see, they were willingly coming through that door, and willingly accepting the assignments we threw their way. It's only fair that we ask for them to fulfill their end of the bargain without delay, but life isn't fair, I guess.

I'm faced with losing writers on a daily basis. I've already lost three... well, two and a half, because one of them just went from staff to freelancer. They're dropping like flies.

One of the goners doesn't know that journalism writing is an entirely different thing from creative writing, and refuses to write like a journalist, er, he's a journalism major. I don't know how that works. Buh-bye.

The other is an awkward girl just out of high school, and I'm thinking home school thanks to her strange social demeanor. She flaked out on the first article we gave her, but she had the decency to let us know ahead of time. The second article she did the work for, but can't write it, because her Dad won't let her be on the paper anymore. AAAAAAAA! The things I must go through just to get content!


I am just going to hang in there and pray for everyone to come through, while suppressing the urge to rage on the staff, and those who prevented James from being Editor.

Congratulations to me anyway.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Note to self: Keep my head from exploding

There's a first time for everything. I've never been one to stress out to the point where crying is the only remedy I am able to carry out, but it looks like now is the time for this feeling to surface.

It could be age, it could be my long absence from an environment with actual deadlines, or it could just be that my responsibilities really are overwhelming... whatever the cause, I'm freaking out. This Assistant Editor gig is taking a lot out of me! I'm getting bombarded by emails daily from the Editor, the advisor, and the section editors, all asking me about time-sensitive issues, that I must scramble to resolve or answer. This is not including the stuff I already have on my plate to do.

Being that this is a school newspaper, this is all done on a small scale, of course, but it's not any less stressful than at a newspaper with a larger audience, I imagine. I'm overwhelmed to the point where I am not sure I can do the job, but then I go back and I think that this is a learning experience, and that these feelings are inevitable-- of course I can do the job! This is just the beginning.

The advisor seems to understand that we should take things easy for our first issue, but I sometimes feel like the Editor doesn't understand that, and just wants to plunge right in like we've been doing this forever. It's not just the actual putting together of the paper that is difficult, it's largely getting everyone to work together effectively, efficiently, and getting them all on the same page. That's the hardest part when you've got a machine that has different parts, each of those parts doing its own individual job in the hope that the end result is collectively the same.

Again, this is a learning experience. Stress is something that one must learn to cope with along with all the other facets of a job, but I guess I'm just not used to this degree of stress.

There is a good side to this, though. It's making me want to drive ahead and give this gig my all. At this point, I think I have no other choice, and I'm happy to adhere.

Now if I can just keep my head from exploding, I think I'll be OK!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

If happiness is relative, then I'm its sibling!

It is amazing just how well I'm getting along with every person I'm working with at the paper. I haven't had so much fun and bonded with so many people in ages.

I went to campus yesterday for a mini meeting. Even though it was Friday, a cloudy day and barely anyone was at school, it turned out to be a blast. I got to know the people I'm working with better in a less formal setting. We had more than a few laughs, found out stuff about each other, and just plain had fun.

I'm really looking forward to getting to know all these people more, and perhaps making friends outside of school and away from the newspaper office.

Things will be even more fun when the numerous invitations I receive to go out to eat or get a cup of coffee can be taken up. I haven't been having any trouble fasting for Ramadan, as far as feeling hungry, or too out of it, but I am facing this social obstacle. It won't last long though. This is the sixth day of Ramadan, which leaves 23-24 days until things go back to normal. Ramadan is usually 29 or 30 days, depending on the lunar cycle, never more, never less. Hence, the 23-24 days.

Speaking of Ramadan, like I said, it's going really well. In fact, I don't even feel hungry during the day. I'm not watching the clock and sun with my mouth open and ready for the first bite hovering infront of my face...

Maybe it's me keeping busy, or perhaps it's just that I'm fueling up well enough in the evenings to hold me over until dinnertime, but at least for now it's just not an issue. This makes me very happy.

I'm just one happy chickadee these days.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fiction is hard when you're an Assistant Editor

My third week of school has come and gone, and I hate to say it, but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I'm scoffing at myself for being such a weenie when on paper I'm just taking one class and have just a 4-hour obligation as Assistant Editor, but these things take a lot more time than that.

Firstly, my class is one that works in mysterious ways. I say I have homework, but it's not really homework, it's just writing. I have to do a lot of writing in order for this class to work the way it ought, and that part is as it always is-- difficult. I have some things I can send out, but I wanna send out my best, and right now I don't feel I have that yet.

I have one story I feels is ready, and it got a good response when I posted it up on a forum, but there were some glitches with it that got a mix of responses. No one denied it was good, but I can't decide if what I made my characters do really is hard to believe like some readers said it was, or if the readers who raised concerns are just forgetting that little thing called "suspension of reality".

Being that my story is not science fiction, or fantasy, I suppose some readers take it as just plain fiction based on what might happen in real life. And this is what gets me . . . I, for the longest time was absolutely terrified of writing fiction, because of this exact thing-- writing something unbelievable.

I've voiced this concern to several people in the past. They all waved the hand without the drink in it dismissively, telling me that that's the beauty of fiction; that you can do anything with it.

After giving it a lot of thought, I began to write fiction. I liked it. I felt so free, and I want nothing more than to continue with it. What I found after a few stories, however, is that fiction is very tricky. Now, I've read all kinds of it that rang true to the essence of life (which is what fiction is) but not necessarily true to what might really happen.

My story is a crime thriller on the surface, but if you just lift that layer a teeny tad bit, it's a little deeper than that. It deals with a woman who is very naive. So naive that she has gotten herself into a pickle she thinks she can get out of just by saying she wants out, but ends up having that idea blown out of her head-- literally.

Sounds gory, but it's not.

It's a dialogue-driven story of said woman, and this stranger she meets in the subway.

Some people liked it . . .

"Having lived in New York and been a frequent subway traveler, my observations on this would be ... it isn't odd for him to light her cigarette ... (especially in NY smile) for all kinds of reasons. But I really like her! she is a naive, but yet hip to a few things."

While others, er, not so much . . .

"While I love the ending, I guess I struggle to believe that someone who is frustrated with all the people following her, is going to walk through an alley with a complete stranger (might be my midwest thinking as opposed to a place like New York)".

I have a feeling that the person who struggled to believe that a naive-- naive being a keyword-- woman would be wooed by a handsome gentleman in a tailored suit right after breaking up with what sounds like a thug through her dialogue is missing the point of my story. Again, there is a handsome stranger in a tailored suit, behaving like a gentleman toward a woman who demonstrates a certain quality of, shall we say, evident bad judgement, happens to have just broken up with her thuggish boyfriend on a cell phone . . . in a subway. Had I described a scruffy-looking guy in torn clothes and a full-grown beard approaching this woman, it would be a different issue.

But I've watched people interact with each other in all kinds of settings. Complete strangers talk to each other, and I hear them give each other too much information all the time. All these people are well-dressed and look like soccer moms, and corporate CEO's, but who knows what lurks beneath? It's just how some people are-- they're naive and will talk to anyone who doesn't look like a scruffy weirdo. New York City, Denver, Omaha . . . people are people everywhere you go, and there're always going to be those who are naive, and those who are evil to take advantage of that naivete.

Think about it-- if there weren't such people in this world, we wouldn't have so many disappearances and murders on the news. Moreover, the evening news is proof that such things as women trusting complete handsome strangers can and DO happen.

In the end, I don't wanna be too stubborn and shoot myself in the foot by ignoring people's feedback, but I also don't know these critiquers well enough to know whether they're qualified or not. Ted's review page isn't the same as The New York Times review page, and that's where things become a little fuzzy and difficult to figure out in this situation. I must give this much thought and act soon so I can get moving on submissions, though. I just wish it wasn't so difficult.

The newspaper is also a lot of hard work. I spend a lot of time sending out emails, and reading emails I receive from multiple people. Story ideas, tracking, updating, and keeping everyone in the loop is a lot of work. UH-LOT. And it's my job. On top of all that, I have to write two opinion columns by next Thursday, which is all fine and dandy, but I also have to write for my class, remember? AAAAAAA! It's insanity in my brain right now, but it's all good.

Despite everything I love keeping this busy. It's when I get the most things done, and have the most energy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna fall over from exhaustion.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Joy of Giving

So, I've taken a class this semester to help myself get published, and so far, so good. I have yet to get published through this class, but we're still at the beginning of the road.

The interesting thing about all of this is that I keep helping my classmates by giving them tips and website links, and other resources to help them with their writing and publication.

In class I offer nuggets of information I originally thought were known to anyone who writes, but found useful to a few of my classmates who did not know. Everybody does this in class, and I've learned a lot from their nuggets of information myself. We all also love to give each other personal tips.

Dave, an old man who reminds me of Peter Boyle with more hair atop his head, introduced himself to the class like we all did, and talked about what kind of writing he's interested in.

It turns out he's into questioning Christian Doctrine. Well, it hit me as I was sitting there listening to him that I had read an article in an issue of Writer's Digest a while back about a hot and growing market along the same lines. I made a mental note to bring the article in for Dave to look at if I could manage to remember. I did remember, and boy was Dave thrilled. He expressed total thanks when I first gave the magazine to him last Thursday, and then over the weekend emailed me to thank me again. It didn't stop there. Yesterday in class, he came to me and thanked me by saying, "Boy, that magazine you gave me was great."

Yesterday, I got to class, only to find the class before ours still in there. I said hello to Jon, a guy in my class, who has a fantasy book ready to be published. Instead of standing there in silence, I searched in my brain for a topic of conversation. We exhausted one topic, and then it hit me that Jon is a fantasy writer, and had expressed interest in finding out how graphic novels are made. Excellent! Just the day before I had been reading one author's newsletter, in which she had discussed how graphic novels are made, since she is in the process of making one herself. I found the bit to be so interesting and intriguing, that I was wowed by something I never gave much thought to. I told Jon about this, and he was thrilled at my offer to show him said page. Later, I emailed him the link, and got an email back today thanking me.

I'm embarassed by the shower of appreciation for simply transporting a magazine from my bookshelf into someone's hands, and emailing a link I had no hand in creating.

It feels good, though. It is the joy of giving, and the good feeling will do until I feel another form of joy-- that of being published somewhere new.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Thank God for email and email-happy people

I have been out of school for so long, that the idea of remembering "homework" hasn't really re-registered all the way back in my brain, as well as the idea of looking at the syllabus for clues as to what's going on and what's due. I have been living in a world, where you either tell me what you want from me, or I write it down to remind myself later. This is bad, and I must work on getting back into the habits of a good little student.

I am lucky, though, because my professor is one of those email-happy people (she actually dubbed herself '... a professor who will occassionally harass you.'). Well, this is really good, because yesterday-- Labor Day, mind you-- this professor sent out an email to everyone to remind them an assignment was due at the next class.

Awesome! As well as PHEW! I really had no idea that this assignment was due, and so I thank God that email has become such a mainstream way to tell multiple people one simple thing. If it weren't for that email, I would've been truly like a deer caught in headlights today.

Thank you, Dr. Mills, and thank you, whoever invented email. Your concern for mankind will keep many of them from becoming deer in headlights.

I still need to utilize the syllabus and use reminders that are set up by me, and only me; an independent adult and student who wants to succeed.